Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream

Why are there no more Midnight Movies?

Okay, technically, I know it’s pretty darn easy to find a movie playing at midnight. Practically all theaters now offer midnight showings of mainstream movies. But what happened to those fucked up movies that could only be shown at midnight? Movies that make no sense in the daylight – movies that need the dark.

Midnight Movies covers the six movies released between 1970 and 1977 that defined midnight movies as we know them. Three of them I’ve seen (Night of the Living Dead, Pink Flamingos, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and three of them I haven’t (El Topo, The Harder They Come and Eraserhead). I’ve never even heard of the first two!

There are interviews with the directors of each of the films, as well as stars, producers and those involved in the film in any way. Unlike most film documentaries, actual theater owners and distributors are also interviewed for their takes on the phenomenon.

My absolute number one goal is to see El Topo, which is unfortunately not available on DVD. That looks like the most fucked up movie ever made. It looked like a spaghetti western (or would that be a enchilada western?) but with WAY more violence and WAY more philosophy. I like violence and philosophy, so it’s right up my alley.

As for my Eraserhead procrastination – I can’t explain it. I’ve been putting it off and off…and now I wonder if I will ever sit down and watch it. I think I’m a little bit afraid that I won’t understand it and a lot afraid that I won’t like it. I’m just deathly afraid of losing goodwill towards David Lynch, although Nadja certainly did not help in the goodwill department.

All in all, Midnight Movies provides a good background for those just getting into cult films or a walk down memory lane for those firmly entrenched in the subculture.

    

Nadja

This movie was retarded and boring. And Pretentious – don’t forget pretentious.

In the past, I’d claimed that David Lynch had never led me astray. I’ll never be making *that* statement again. As Executive Producer (and cameo star) of this movie, you’d think that he would have known better…but nope, I was forced to sit through this whole movie on the premise that David Lynch wouldn’t fuck me over. And I had to watch it alone, since my husband left the room about 20 minutes in – it was the menstrual blood.

Menstrual blood? Well, the movie is about a lesbian vampire, specifically Dracula’s daughter. Menstrual blood has to come into play eventually, right? But instead of any kind of vampire action, all we get are long pretentious monologues with gems like “the only pain I feel is that of fleeting joy” and other nonsense. The only monologue that I did like is when Nadja explains that the reason she hated her father is because he forced her to eat bread with too much butter and how she tried to scrape the butter off with a hairbrush. How much butter is too much butter, exactly?

The single most irritating thing about Nadja was the “Pixel Vision.” The IFC trivia at the beginning of the film bragged about parts of the movie being shot in “Pixel Vision” – which was a $45 Fisher Price camera. Sounds avant garde and cutting edge, huh? Nope – it’s just irritating. Anytime something exciting is about to happen, like a death scene, sex scene or likely both – the damn movie becomes all pixilated so you can’t see shit. It’s fucking retarded.

The only thing that I did enjoy was the now dated 1994 soundtrack. Portishead, My Bloody Valentine, Spacehog…all bands that have mostly disappeared off the radar these days, meant a lot in 1994, but mean surprisingly little in 2004. It’s almost like a “sell by” date…

I feel really bad about trashing this film. I’m one of those people that is supposed to appreciate Indie Films, aren’t I? But I’ve got to call a spade a spade this time – this movie is complete crap.

Dune

I have finally seen Dune in its entirety now, I can no longer use it as an excuse to opt-out on those long and sticky discussions on my forum – you know the ones, arguing about the merits of the film versus the miniseries versus the book, arguing over director’s cut versus extended cut…

Blade Runner. Dune reminded me a lot of Blade Runner, not only because of Sean Young’s replicant-like performance, but because of the strangeness of the planets and how everyone in the film looked dirty and sweaty.

I am sure this has been said before, in SciFi discussions I would care not to be a part of…Dune seems to be a retelling of the Moses story. A bastard child is foreseen to be a savior…the bastard is thrown into the desert to die…the bastard leads his people out of the desert and overcomes an evil empire. Of course, harnessing the powers of worms is different than parting the Red Sea, but both are probably at a difficulty level of 10.

For other films with wormsign, see Beetlejuice, Tremors or Friday (Big Worm, get it?).

Why is it that every SciFi/Fantasy film that came out in the 80s had to be scored by some crappy rock band? Toto did the soundtrack for Dune – too bad David Lynch didn’t team up with Angelo Badalamenti until his next film, Blue Velvet. To be honest though, the music was powerful and majestic – and totally fit the film, though I feel Toto‘s big hit, Rosanna, could have found a place in there somewhere.

I wish that I had seen Dune before my other exposures to David Lynch. If I had seen Dune before Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and the rest, I would be able to view it with less expectations. I wasn’t disappointed by Dune, by any means, but I anticipated the strangeness of David Lynch’s universe and there was no way I could have been taken off-guard, as people who originally viewed the film 15 or more years ago would have been.

  

Wild at Heart

One of most romantic films ever.

It was on The Independent Film Channel the other night, and whenever it’s on TV, I just can’t resist watching it, even though I have it on tape. Like most films by David Lynch, Wild at Heart affects me so emotionally, that I almost cry. Cry like most women cry at the end of Beaches…which is not me at all.

Of course the fact that Wild at Heart is a homage to The Wizard of Oz is one of the reasons to love this film. I stand by my declaration that The Wizard of Oz was the first Road Trip film ever made, and all Road Trip films thereafter contain a small piece of Oz…but few films actually admit it. Whereas the through Oz was bright and colorful for Dorothy, Lula and Sailor’s trip was a desolate wasteland, ending up in Big Tuna, Texas, instead of the Emerald City. Lula’s mother, Marietta was the perfect Wicked Witch, ultimately melting into a glass of liquor. But I never can decide which one is Dorothy – is it Sailor, or is it Lula????

The music of Chris Isaak doesn’t hurt either. Wicked Game launched his career, and that is the first song by him many people, including me, had ever heard from him. I didn’t really like him at first, until one fateful night. April and I were pretty fucked up, we were in college at the time, and I think she had gone to the pool. I was sitting in my apartment, in the dark, watching MTV, and the video for Wicked Game came on. I was glued to the set and I think I started crying, I’m not sure. I just felt so empty, the relationship I had at the time wasn’t like that at all – oh it was wicked all right, not in a good way, I just wanted to be rolling around on a beach somewhere, wanted something in black in white, but I think I just went to the pool after that. Pretty soon after that, I “borrowed” the Chris Isaak tape from my shitty roommate and never returned it. I hadn’t even seen Wild at Heart yet, though I ended up seeing it a year or so later. Wild at Heart evokes the same emotion from me, longing for a relationship like that, so passionate and sexual, seeming to be the only important thing in the world. The difference between now and then is that watching it now, I realize that it’s not real and that no one has that, at least not for very long. I cried so much because I wanted to have that illusion, rolling around on a beach or dancing on the side of a Texas Highway, that I didn’t realize sex isn’t all there is to a relationship. Now when I watch it, I take it as I would pornography, even above that, because it makes me feel something inside that pornography fails to – a reason for it all, not just sex, not just the fantasy. Sometimes, I almost feel relieved when I go back to my normal, boring life now. Only sometimes, though.

Nicolas Cage sure was hot, when he had hair. And he does a decent Elvis Impression. Yes, that really is him singing throughout the film. Like all Lynch films, gotta go buy the soundtrack – Angelo Badlamenti.

So I’ve poured my heart out, probably sounding wild at heart and weird on top, but that, in and of itself, should be enough for you to take this film seriously as an alternative to Beaches and/or pornography.

Mulholland Dr.

Sometimes I start to think that David Lynch has quit making films and instead has decided to start fucking with our heads, just for his own amusement, but then all the pieces fall into place and I wonder how I ever could have doubted him.

I just got home from watching a free sneak preview at The Anjelika. I would have paid to see it – vintage Lynch.

Well, to start with, its a little too much like Lost Highway to be a coincidence. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As Professor Sean puts it, “David Lynch likes to show the dark side of the American Dream.” Every dream has a dark side…reality. Perhaps I have said too much already, I promised myself no spoilers!

‘Rita’ (Laura Elena Harring, former Miss USA) survives a car crash, only to be left with amnesia. She is discovered hiding in an apartment by Betty (Naomi ‘Jet Girl’ Watts), a perky aspiring actress. They then try to unravel her identity…but it’s not Rita’s identity they should be worrying about.

The Little Man from Another Place plays a mysterious part in the film, and every time that he appeared, the audience in the theater applauded and screamed. Strangely enough, he was playing a full grown man. The audience also laughed pretty hard as soon as Billy Ray Cyrus appeared. Billy Ray is the latest musician to be cast by Lynch. He’s no Chris Isaak, but he’s entertaining. And yes, he still has his mullet.

Mulholland Drive was originally intended to be a TV pilot, but of course, ABC rejected it as “too dark.” I wouldn’t have minded tuning in every week. Betty and Rita had very good chemistry and there were many subplots that could have been explored a little more. I am kind of glad it didn’t end up on the small screen though – TV is definitely not Lesbian-friendly.

There didn’t seem to be one expletive contained in the whole film! I’ll have to watch it again to make sure, but I am fairly sure that the original TV intention is why.

After reading some online reviews, it’s obvious to me that most people are stupid. Many people obviously did not undertand the film and chalked it up to being a puzzle with too many pieces or a puzzle box or whatever. Don’t listen to them. Just because there is not a linear structure, doesn’t mean that every piece doesn’t fit. If you think of Lost Highway as a Mobious Strip, turning unto itself for eternity, Mulholland Drive is merely a pages torn out of a diary – you just need to find out whose diary it is.

I was going to write up an in-depth analysis, but that would contain spoilers and I don’t trust any of my readers to stop at a SPOILER ALERT label. Ruining this one would be on par with giving away the ending of The Sixth Sense. We’ll be discussing this film in my forum – come talk about it with us there.